Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Communication Bootcamp

It's always nice to have someone appreciate what you do. That's how I felt when the women of the St. Theresa's Moms Group invited me to come back and speak to them again. I was really honored to give them a presentation that I called Communication Bootcamp. It was all about how to handle difficult conversations at the holidays with peace and joy.

I introduced an acronym -- one that many of you may be familiar with: ACTS. This is typically used as a tool to help you remember how to keep a good holy hour: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, Supplication. My version takes the same letters and applies them to effective communication strategies: Attention, Compassion, Trust, Sincerity & Support.

Here's a quick summary of what I shared. It won't be as comprehensive, but you'll get the idea.

A – Attention:

stop talking, listen and pray (bring the Holy Spirit into the conversation)

affirm what is being said – let them know what they are saying has value to you
redirect/refocus – often times issues go off on tangents and you are no longer engaged in a conversation/argument about the matter at hand -- get it back on track

facilitate – even if the argument/issue is with you, there is a way to keep the conversation going in the right direction: stick to the main points

C – Compassion:

let them know you understand and can feel for their position – even if in your heart you know that they are far afield.

find a place of common ground/every argument has a grain of truth—find it

agree where you can, and if you can’t on certain points remain silent – move on

forgiveness – don’t be condescending/simply say that this is a worthwhile conversation and there will be no hard feelings in the end. Better to share a grievance than let it eat away at you, right?

T – Trust

building a rapport with Attention and Compassion will help to develop trust within the conversation.

But we need to trust what we say, as well. – always surrender the words and deeds to God.

You invoked the Holy Spirit at the very start – now, really truly believe as you proceed that you are not alone. The angels and saints can be your guide

Blessed Mother will always protect you in defense of her Son

Operate in her example: simple, pure and faithful – no conversation requires more than that. You’re not giving a dissertation. Often people try to delve too deeply into conversations that just require simple, straight forward answers

S – Sincerity & Support

Always be truthful – if you are confronted with an in your face argument, ask for the courage to stick to your guns with honest and sincere answers offered in charity

Make your intention to be supportive in helping the other person to understand clear

Don’t let them confuse support for the person with support for the sin

These were basically jumping off points to talk about each of the strategies in greater depth. One thing that I didn't mention is that we started with the Beatitudes from Mt 5. That is how we are meant to live, to be fully human in our relations with others and with creation. If you look further in the Gospel of Matthew to Chapter 10, you'll notice that Jesus tells us how we are going to be divided in families and among groups that are very close (feel like family). We talked about how we should expect some differences of opinion -- some mild, some extreme. These techniques of communication will help navigate the murky waters of challenging family/close friend conversations. They can also be used as basic rules of fostering good/quality communication.

Have a blessed Advent everyone. As we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, take a moment to brush up on your communication skills so that it can truly be a peace-filled Christmas!

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